Thursday, March 13, 2014

Flying The Friendly Skies?

In the last six months, I have traveled a lot. I have spent countless hours in a terminal watching my flight delay time increase minute to minute knowing my connection is shot. I've had flights cancelled ten minutes before boarding.  I've stood in long security lines only to have my boobs frisked, and they didn't even have the decency to buy me a drink first. I've dealt with  grumpy airport staff who give off the vibe that they would rather be having a root canal than check the validity of your driver's license. I've shared the airport with outright rude passengers that make me wonder how people can be so miserable all the time. I guess they get their frustration out IN the airport and I am doing it here. I've had flight attendants who gave me the death stare because I asked for one more creamer for my coffee.

(The all to familiar notification on my phone when traveling)

(The worst thing you can see while waiting in the terminal to board) 

Don't get me wrong, I have had some amazingly fun times on the pressurized metal tubes and have met some really cool people. I sat next to DMX on a flight from Washington, DC to Greenville, SC (my hometown). I had a seatmate who is the drummer for Edwin McCain, (I'm looking at you, Tez). I've had flight attendants who made my trip so much fun with their cheery attitude and wanting to make the flight fun for all. I've had pilots who were intrigued with my Google Glass and were happy to try them on and snap a cool picture for my 6-year-old son. Yes, nice people are all around, too.

(My seat mate, DMX) 
(My favorite seat mate, Tez Sherard, Edwin McCain's drummer)

A good or bad seat mate can make or break your flight. I have had both. The good seat mate is someone you can engage in a fun conversation with and make your flight fly by. I talk a lot but I always read the people I am sitting next to. If they say a quick, "Hello", and quickly put their ear buds in, I pop my Beats on my head and get lost in iTunes. We say, "Goodbye", at landing, and that's that. Some talk your ear off non-stop as you look at your lonely headphones and wonder, would it be incredibly rude to just put them on, close your eyes, and tilt your head back. 

I would have to say that the worst seat mate is the one with no regard for your comfort during your time sitting 4 inches away from them for hours. By this, I mean the people whose breath smell like they ate a whole onion directly prior to boarding. Or, the ones who spent the hour before boarding at the bar downing Jack Daniels. It costs $1.54 to buy some breath mints at the Hudson News that's in every airport across the country. And, don't forget to shower before you fly or at least put some deodorant on. I sat next to a guy who was very nice looking, but smelled as if he had just spent a year in the desert in the middle of summer. I literally had to spray breath spray on my finger and rub it under my nose.  

Moving away from the people you share your travel experiences with and moving on to the airlines themselves. What happened, airline industry? I remember when flying was a pleasure. It was something people looked forward to just as much as the destination they were going to. You got served with a hot meal that you wouldn't eat if  you were on the ground, but in the air, it may as well be a $300 a head meal in a fine dining institute. Don't even act like you didn't get excited when you saw the food cart come rolling down the aisle. Now, you pay $8 for packaged crackers, some trail mix, and a piece of chocolate.

Speaking of money, flying is nothing short of highway robbery. Yes, I know some will say I should drive or take a Greyhound, but those people clearly haven't flown lately. First your fare will be ridiculous and sometimes it makes no sense. For example, I needed to fly to Philadelphia. The choices were Greenville to Philadelphia, $398 & Greenville, SC to NYC via Philadelphia, $220. I thought  I would one-over the airline. I decided to book the Greenville to NYC via Philly and just hop off in Philadelphia. NYC was where I would end up and fly out of, but I needed to go to Philly first. I hopped off the plane and smiled as I knew I had saved over $100. However, the day I was to leave from NYC to come home, I got this message as I checked in:

It said my reservation was, "Out of sync" and I needed to call the airlines. I did so and was floored in the process. Apparently, hopping off your flight is considered abandoning your itinerary. The result? A $200 change fee and the difference in fare, which is astronomical the day of. Well played, US Airways, well played. Lesson learned.

Baggage fees will eat you alive. When I first started traveling to NYC last year, I brought two check-in bags for a 3 day trip each time. Hey, I am a woman. I prepare for the worst. After a few months of almost having to take out a 2nd mortgage on my house, I downsized to one.  $60 each way adds up fast. Now, I am the master of the carry on bag.

An eye opening experience came to me two weeks ago. My 2-year-old came down with a nasty stomach bug on a Tuesday. I added it up and figured I would be full blown sick by that Thursday night and unable to fly to Colorado that Friday. My prediction came true. I called the airline Friday morning explaining that I was vomiting like a fraternity brother and I wanted to do the responsible thing and travel at another time. I didn't think it was fair to be actively vomiting on a booked flight with over 200 people, exposing them all to the incapacitating illness that would likely ruin their vacation. Us Airways informed me that I could cancel, but I would have to pay the $200 change fee to re-book my flight at a later date and any change in fares. I protested in between pukes. I told the agent I would be glad to bring a huge garbage bag to the terminal with me and apologize for exposing everyone to my illness as we boarded. US Air didn't flinch. They were more than ready to infect the entire airplane to collect $200 from me. I decided to not be selfish and fly sick, so I stayed home. I will owe them $200 to re-book in addition to the over $500 in fares I paid for when I was healthy.

Will airlines get any better? I don't think so. The pilots and flight attendants hands are tied. I don't blame them for the conditions on board the aircraft. You get a free drink on all flights and that's about it. The planes are typically nasty for the most part and they're are all pretty much run down. I ripped my new jacket and scratched my arm on this broken armrest which US Air didn't feel responsible for. Thank god I didn't get Teatnus:

I could go on and on about the pitfalls of airports and flying, but that would require a book deal and about 1,000 pages to play with. I guess when it comes down to it, when your wheels touch the ground at your destination, the hassle, and the empty wallet is of little concern. I've had a blast traveling. I've met amazing people, seen fantastic concerts, and made memories that will last me a lifetime.

 (Neil Young at Carnegie Hall - amazing show!)
 (Allie Mills, mom from 'The Wonder Years' at a subway station on Upper West Side) 

 (Cyndi Lauper concert in Englewood, NJ) 

(Nellie Furtado and I after Cyndi Lauper and Friends concert, NYC) 

(P!nk at Barclay's Center, Brooklyn)

(This view may just be worth all the money and hassle)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mariano Rivera's Last Yankee Home Game With Google Glass

Sometimes the stars align and things happen that are nothing short of magic. I was in New York City a few weeks ago and I had the chance to see Mo's last home game as a New York Yankee. I am a huge Yankee fan. I cut my toe the other day and I pretty sure there was a bluish tint to the color of my blood. Ok, maybe not, but you get the point. I have said the entire season that I would give anything to be sitting in that stadium as Mo took the mound one last time. Well, it happened. To explain how I got to that point is another blog in itself, but let's just say that at the very last minute, I had my Yankee tickets in hand, and was on the D train to the Bronx.

 I exited the station and could feel the energy of Yankee Stadium hit me like a train. It was as if we were in the World Series (Not this year, so this was as close as we were going to get). That was the atmosphere. It was electric. We all knew we were coming to say goodbye to the best closer in the history of the game, and future Hall Of Famer. We were watching a man come back from an almost career ending ACL tear. He came back to finish it this year. His way.

A man like Mariano Rivera, to me, is a true role model. He's humble, he's a family man, he's played with integrity, and has been a consistent standout on the field. How many times have you read a bad headline about Mo? Probably none. He loves the game. It shows every time he steps on the field. I could go on and on.

The game was exciting, but we all knew what we were waiting for. The call to the bullpen, one last time, make the call to bring Mo out. The time came. The crowd rose to their feet. The sounds was almost deafening. Then, he emerged.

One last trot to the mound. You could see he was taking it all in. Tens of thousands were on their feet, chanting, "We Want Mo".  I had goosebumps.

You have to wonder what was going through his mind at this moment.

A few warm up pitches

The time came for the last pitch. Mo stood on the mound for a second, the crowd on their feet, a roar filled the air. He gently tossed the ball a few times.

After doing his job and giving the fans one last glimpse of near perfection on the mound at Yankee Stadium, Rivera's last at-home game was over.

I love the above photo. The three Yankees who have been there the longest, Jeter, Rivera, and Pettitt (who also retired), went to the mound to hug their teammate. Pettitt was content to stand aside and let Mo have his well deserved moment.

And a video shot with Google Glass (not the best quality distance wise but gives you a nice idea of the atmosphere).

Meeting on the Mound

Rivera and Jeter hug

 Mo tips his hat to the fans and the players. 

 Mo wiped away tears as he exited the field

 Rivera scoops up dirt from the mound

As a woman, I felt the emotion of the moment, and I don't think that was lost on any man in the stands. I saw grown men wiping away tears. Probably because we know we're screwed now, but still, tears. :)

I am so proud as a Yankees fan to have been there that night. I don't know what Rivera plans to do in retirement, but I know we haven't seen the last of him. I hope he enjoys the time with his beautiful family and knows that he has inspired a lot of young players, new fans, old fans, and has encapsulated what a true baseball player really is. 

Good luck, Mo. We will not only miss your positive force on the roster, but also the feeling knowing when you're on the mound, and it's a close one, that we'll be okay that game. 

(All photos are copyright of Jennifer McKelvey. Please do not use without permission). 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

Just a quick update to share a local news station, Fox Carolina, and the story they did on me being a Glass Explorer. I will share the interview clip tomorrow when it becomes available!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Strolling Around Manhattan With Google Glass

I had to go to New York City last week for business but I was able to mix a little pleasure in there. I grabbed my Google Glass to document my adventures in the city.

I don't know if those who have Glass have had the same experiences as I have had out and about with them. Either people whisper, "She has Google Glass", or they'll just come right up to you and ask about it. I love people who do that. I like to talk to anyone who will talk back. Further, I like to see the excitement on people's faces when they try Glass on for the first time.

My experiences with people approaching me about my Glass happened immediately upon entering the airport here in Greenville, SC. I had two Marines who were about to ship out asking to try them on. They were really excited and we talked about how Google Glass could change their jobs for the better. I'm sure you all have a few of these photos; the ones where you're telling someone how to take a picture. Here is one of those:

This is in Charlotte. I was delayed by 3 hours. There was a Federal Marshall who was intrigued with Glass.

This was on the ferry from Liberty Island to Manhattan. A group of men were talking about Google Glass and didn't notice I had them on. A friend overheard their conversation and I walked over to share with them. :) They were amazed. (No, I was not about to go all Mike Tyson on him although it looks like I have my dukes up).

I loved having Google Glass while I walked around in NY. I was able to still see where I was going while getting some nice footage. Below is a short video at the 9/11 Memorial.

I love the clarity of the video and the audio is not bad at all. The only little thing I noted is how after I scale the Freedom Tower and go back down to the water, there's a short blackout with Glass as it adjusts to the light.

On a side note, and the most important point, I really was moved at my time spent here. I had been to New York shortly after 9/11. In fact, it was still smoldering and recovery was still well underway. I came back later on when the cleanup was over and it was just a an empty space and it was almost hard to picture such horror taking place there. But, I could feel the weight in my heart. I could see the images that played over and over on the news. I could see the faces of those who lost their lives and the faces full of grief from those left behind.

I went here last week with a friend who had a very beautiful way of explaining how they felt when they visited the memorial. If you stand right beside the edge, you can feel a rising of air. It clearly feels as if the air calmly floats up. It's almost, in a poetic way, as if the souls are rising. Rising above the horror and the terror of that fateful day. The explanation of that from my friend gave me cold chills and peace as I looked at the countless names of people I never met, but grieved for.

The reminder that, even in times of great loss and sorrow, life goes on, is the new Freedom Tower. It's symbolic to me in that it's like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Anytime this tower was in my view, I stopped to look.

I went to Central Park, an oasis in the city. The green reminded me of home. If you've ever been there, you know that it's a nice break from the concrete jungle just outside the borders of the trees. There's also some beautiful spots to take photos. I snapped a few with Glass while there.

I love how the texture of the rock is captured in this shot as well as the clarity of everything in the photo.

This may be my favorite Central Park photo I took. You see the trees that line the city and you see the buildings towering over, reminding you that you're in the middle of Manhattan.

I also took an afternoon to go visit the Statue of Liberty. I took a video of the view:

And, a photo!

My time in New York went by way too fast for my liking, but all good trips have to end at some point. I loaded my luggage into a taxi and told him to take me to LaGuardia. I got a few shots of NY on my way out.

Overall, having Glass with me really enhanced the post-trip reminiscing a fantastic long weekend in the greatest city in America (besides Greenville). I got the shots I could have gotten with my phone or camera, but would have missed the view in doing so. This is my major love affair with Google Glass. The hands-free option has me sold completely. Battery life is still leaving much to be desired for me and I hope a software update in the future will solve that problem. And, off topic, I lost my Glass charger when I changed rooms at my hotel. Any micro-USB works and I have had no problem charging until I can get a replacement.

I am really excited to take Google Glass to Disney World when I take my three kids in the hopefully not so distant future! Capturing their faces as they roam a place they love will be priceless.

Goodbye, New York. See you soon!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Camera On Google Glass: The Good And Bad.

I've been overall very impressed with the photo quality of Google Glass. In the right light, the photo is, in my opinion, comparable to photos taken with my Nikon. The colors are rich and the textures are captured nicely.

This is where I use Google Glass the most. I take lots of photos and videos of my kids. Yesterday, we went on a hike and I brought Glass along.

It was cool to be able to walk around with three kids in tow and film our little adventure. I have a 2-year-old, so she needs a hand on her at all times. I couldn't have done that with a phone in my hand recording and still get the shot I wanted. The convenience of Glass was awesome. I took a few videos along the way:

The one issue I see with Glass is that where there is direct sunlight on the subject, there's almost a glow that comes off of them and the colors wash out. I know this isn't a problem unique to Glass. I wish there were something in Glass that could adjust to extreme brightness and even out the sunlight. If you watch the video, you will almost see a glow coming off of my son's bright yellow shirt. While it's nothing that ruins the video, it lessens the quality of the video for me. There is a shimmer of light coming off of him. It reminded me of how the vampires in 'Twilight' glow in the sun. (Yes, I took my niece to see the movie. No, I didn't enjoy it).

I also wonder if the glowing issue was just the scene - we're in a darker area of the woods with a burst of light coming in directly where my kids were standing? I've taken other outdoor videos that have been just fine, as you can see below:

Another thought I had yesterday was how it would be cool for Glass to have something in the actual glass part that is like the Transition lenses. As you go out into the light, it dims. I know we have the Maui Jim clip-on sunglass frames, but I didn't want to use those since it was darker in places we were in the woods. I don't know if having something like this built in would work, but it's a thought. I have found that the screen is hard to see in bright sunlight or bright rooms. If I do not have my frames on, I find myself holding a hand up in front of Glass to better see. Below is a photo of how Transition glasses work.

On another subject, I still cannot tether Glass to my Samsung Galaxy S4. I had to go buy a portable internet device to connect and am paying a monthly fee for 5G of data. I still fully believe that, when they're released publicly, they need to be stand-alone. I don't think many people will necessarily want to eat into their phone data plan to connect Glass. I am lucky enough to have unlimited monthly data, but a lot of people do not.   

I am very excited that Google has announced a stand-alone Glass App Store. Mashable: Google Glass To Have App Store  This is a great thing for Glass and reinerates the stand alone aspect of Google Glass. The fact that you may not have to depend on your phone for anything will make Glass more marketable. I wouldn't want to buy a product that only does a portion of what I need it to do. I don't want to have to drag my phone out of my purse to use and app that Glass doesn't support. I'm excited to get a peek at the app store once Googles rolls that out. I do think that gaming will be quite difficult on Glass, so I'll be interested to see if Google develops games unique to Glass.

I am excited to see the development of Glass before it "goes live".  The cool thing is that, as a Glass Explorer, we get to watch the evolution of a revolutionary product. I do know that the final version of Google Glass will probably be much different than the ones we have now. The nice thing about this blog is the interaction I get on Google + with other Explorers and how they often times confirm my opinions or even share tips and tricks to solve problems I may be having. There's a lot of changes that need to happen before it is ready for prime time, but I know Google will release a stellar product in the end! 

Keep on keeping on, Glassmates! 


Some say that their Glass does dim in the sunlight. Mine does not. I wonder if this is a flaw in my Glass? I'll have them checked out when I am in NY next week! 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Return Process

I wanted to follow up to a previous post in which I showed how Google Glass had become loose at the eye piece that projects the images. I still haven't figured out how that happened. I don't handle Glass by that part and when adjusting, I am always very careful to not touch the glass itself. I still believe something just gave way.

I contacted Glass via telephone first. They requested a video to be sent by email if I could provide that and they would take a look at it. I sent the video and received a follow-up call by a Glass staff member later on that day. They decided that I should receive a replacement pair.

I had two options:

1. I could ship Glass back and, upon receiving, they would mail me a replacement. I was told the entire process could take up to 2 weeks. 

2. I could provide my credit card, they would replace a hold for the full price of Glass, and immediately ship me a new pair so there was no lag time in me being between shipping, processing, and receiving a new pair.

I decided to let them place the hold, as I have four things coming up that I didn't want to have to cancel. The best thing about Glass is that I am able to visit places I normally wouldn't be able to visit; radio stations, college football practices, etc. 

I received my replacement pair the next day with return UPS postage and insurance already paid for. Interestingly enough Glass insured for only $100.

The whole process was painless and the hold on my credit card was quickly released.

The Glass team was really understanding. I know I have tried to return other types of electronics only to have the person helping me pretty much implicate me in destroying said product. I didn't get that at all with the Glass team, and I appreciate that as a consumer. Sometimes things just break at no fault of your own and this was one of those cases.